Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey” is arguably one of the most important works of Western literature. According to a poll by the BBC, it is regarded as the most influential story of all time (as a Christian school, we can think of one better, but that’s another blog post).
The story of Odysseus’s journey home to Ithaca after the Greeks won the war against Troy, “The Odyssey” is a journey fraught with peril as Odysseus encounters the fearsome Cyclops, the six-headed monster Scylla, and is almost trapped for eternity by the sea nymph Calypso. Meanwhile, back home in Ithaca, Odysseus’ long suffering wife Penelope and son Telemachus attempt to fend off the advances of unruly suitors who are attempting to steal the throne.
Like Shakespeare’s plays, “The Odyssey” has been studied, analyzed, and adapted dozens of times because there is so much to unpack in the story. Two of the most notable adaptations are the 1922 modernist novel, Ulysses, by James Joyce and the Coen brothers’ 2000 film “O Brother Where Art Thou”.
“The Odyssey” is not just a cornerstone of Western literature; it is also an important part of our school’s 3rd and 7th grade reading curricula. Our third graders read The Children’s Homer, a version true to the original but geared toward younger readers, while our seventh grade students read the original and discuss parallels between Odysseus and Christ and the theme of a hero overcoming temptation and obstacles.
We want our students to learn about virtue from reading stories such as this in class, but more importantly, we want them to learn to embody those virtues. Often, however, students don’t always know what virtue looks like. This is where our drama program comes in.
As an extension of our classrooms, our drama program provides students an avenue to practice embodying a character, as they are challenged time and time again to figure out what the character is thinking and why they say or do what the script tells them to say or do. In doing this, students are given an opportunity to see what fidelity, loyalty, and honor look like, as they are all important character traits in the story.
When choosing our plays, I try to find stories that help cultivate a deeper love and appreciation not only for the stage, but also for the education our students are receiving and (hopefully) modeling what virtue looks like. Bringing a beloved story to life is always a daunting task – especially a story that is the literal definition of “epic”! To emphasize this story, we’ve chosen to use minimalist theatre techniques and movement to bring to life the locations and monsters Odysseus faces along his way.
For those who know and love the story of “The Odyssey,” this will be an opportunity to see the story in a whole new light. For those who are unfamiliar (or only half-remember) the story from high school, this will be a play you won’t soon forget.
Tickets for our three shows – Friday, November 8, at 7 p.m., Saturday, November 9, at 2 and 7 p.m. – are on sale now. Prepare to be swept away by “The Odyssey”!